Thatcher's Irish tweed power suit


Outfits worn by Britain’s ‘Iron Lady’ – including a suit made in Ireland – are to be auctioned at Christie’s in London, writes MICHAEL PARSONS

A DONEGAL TWEED suit has unexpectedly emerged from the wardrobe of Margaret Thatcher and will be sold at auction in London next month in a sale featuring various outfits once worn by the former British prime minister.

The discovery that the Iron Lady, who had a tempestuous relationship with Ireland, had an Irish suit may surprise some, but sensible, sturdy tweed has long been a favourite fabric among no-nonsense, conservative women.

Christie’s auctioneers in London said that seven outfits which had belonged to Baroness Thatcher in the 1970s – the decade when she rose to national and then international prominence – would be auctioned individually.

Each has been assigned a pre-sale estimate of £1,000-£1,500 (€1,270-€1,900).

Among them is a suit described as “composed of tailored jacket and pleated skirt of olive green tweed”. It is a “UK size 12” and labelled “Donegal Handwoven Tweed”. However, although the cloth may have originated in Ulster, the suit was tailored in Kerry, as the label also states: “Handloomed by Moriarty Textiles, Gap of Dunloe, Ireland”.

The Gap of Dunloe is a popular tourist spot near Killarney. However, unlike Queen Victoria, Baroness Thatcher has never visited Killarney and the suit was evidently exported to be sold in a shop in England.

Christie’s said the seven outfits were worn by Thatcher during her time as British education secretary and that “they are all by British designers”, likely to prompt a “we are not amused” reaction in the Kingdom of Kerry, and all “feature in many images of the future prime minister”.

Thatcher was secretary of state for education and science in the British government from 1970-1974; then became leader of the Conservative party in 1975 and was elected prime minister in 1979. She won three general elections and remained in Number 10 until 1990.

Clare Borthwick, a textiles expert with Christie’s, said the outfits were being sold by a private collector who is understood to have acquired them when Thatcher de-cluttered.

The sale was attracting “quite a lot of interest”, she added, and described the Donegal tweed suit as a playful version of a work outfit which appeared “rather grey and boring” from a distance but “up-close” was revealed to be “woven with bright colours” including red, blue and yellow.

Last year in London, an Asprey handbag owned by Baroness Thatcher sold in a charity auction for £25,000. Baroness Thatcher, aged 86, has retired from public life due to ill health.

The outfits are on display daily, until the auction on September 3rd, at Christie’s South Kensington saleroom in west London